The showcase, presented by NYMF and produced by Amy Birnbaum, "sheds light on the extracurricular talents of Broadway performers and musicians, many of whom perform with bands outside the theatre community or have their own bands with steady gigs and avid followers."
This year's lineup boasted several guest performers who warmed up the crowd before the featured bands took to the stage.
To open the evening, Lauren Pritchard (the original Ilse in Spring Awakening) lent her smoky, soulful voice to four original tunes from her forthcoming album for Sony/BMG Records. Next, Kacie Sheik (sister to Tony Award winner Duncan Sheik) wowed the audience with her powerful vocals, followed by a "surprise" performance by popular transgendered composer/performer Our Lady J.
The final guest contribution came from the band Ancestree, headed by Chester Gregory II (Hairspray, Tarzan, Donkey in the upcoming Shrek the Musical) and featuring the talents of Dave Cook, Deonte' Larry, D-Flat, Phil, Big C and Romel Veal. The lush, energetic performance highlighted by Gregory's rich, high-flying tenor sent a shock wave through the room with an electric series of soul favorites. The first of the three featured performers was Kyle Jarrow's band The Fabulous Entourage (Travis Chamberlain, Libby Winters, Perry Silver and Jimmy Owens), whose blend of throbbing dance beats, jagged guitars, driving synths, and lush Motown-inspired vocal arrangements have earned them comparisons to Devo, Scissor Sisters and The B-52s. www.fabulousentourage.com
Next came Groovelily (www.groovelily.com), the eclectic trio that "inhabits that contemporary space where creative musicians ignore the boundaries laid down by words like rock, folk, jazz, and pop." The band - composed of Valerie Vigoda (six-string electric violin/vocals), Brendan Milburn (keyboard/vocals) and Gene Lewin (drums/vocals) - burst into the world of musical theatre with their critically acclaimed concert-musical Striking 12, an adaptation of "The Little Match Girl" that has become a perennial holiday favorite. Other recent theatrical ventures include A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Paper Mill Playhouse, a musicalization of Toy Story for Disney Cruise Line, and last year's celebrated Sleeping Beauty Wakes, which garnered two 2007 Los Angeles Ovation Awards, including Best World Premiere Musical.
Their three-song set included two tunes from their ever-growing musical theatre songbook. They opened with "That's Your Department (a getting-things-done montage)" from a new musical project entitled WATT?!?. The piece - about the life and times of Reagan administration Secretary of the Interior James Watt - features book and lyrics by Cry-Baby's David Javerbaum and will enjoy its first staged readings this month at Barrington Stage. Groovelily wrapped up their performance with "Only a King" from Sleeping Beauty Wakes and their hit "Apocalyptic Love Song" off of the 2003 release Are We There Yet?.
The final band to perform was original Rent star Anthony Rapp's Albinokid (David Matos, Pete Asirisi, Paul Gil and Dan Weiss). They delivered two original tunes before ending the generous late-night concert with an enthusiastic rendition of "Video Killed the Radio Star."
In a contrast to last year's showing - which was won by John Gallagher Jr.'s Old Springs Pike - no winner was chosen this year.
NYMF's Next Link Launch Party Weekend includes seminars and work sessions to aid participants in gearing up for the fifth annual season of NYMF, running Sept. 15-Oct. 5.
Here is a look at the event, which triumphantly rocked the midtown venue until well after 1 AM:
Above photos by Neale Eckstein
Above photos by Matthew Blank